Carolism #9: Celebrate the Success of Your Students

Carolism #9: Celebrate the Success of Your Students

We all have bad days. There will be those days when it seems nothing can go right. Sometimes we can be so critical of ourselves that we fail to see the good we accomplish. At the end of each day in my classroom, each student picks one thing they did well and we celebrate it. If you only see the bad, you’ll have a hard time appreciating those tiny instances when everything came together. Remember to celebrate your success.

I once had a student who couldn’t hold his comb. I know it sounds crazy for cosmetology school, but this student never once combed hair—not even his own. Something so simple and trivial that everyone else had already mastered, another simply couldn’t do. When he learned how to part hair with a comb, the entire class celebrated. This is the thing about celebrating success—it doesn’t have to be a giant feat or even something the majority would think is a big deal.

Someone will get excited over a 71 on a test, while others won’t be satisfied without a 90. A win is a win—no matter how great or small. Celebrate them all. What gets recognized gets repeated. It’s why experts say to reinforce good behavior as opposed to harping on the bad.

When we get through a tough subject, we have a BYOB (bring your own banana) banana split party. I have long ago learned that you never know what someone is going through. You never know someone’s past, what led them to your classroom or what they’re dreading to go home to. If you fail to celebrate their successes, they won’t do it either. We are charged with being our students’ coach, teammate and cheerleader. Give them the encouragement they need and are looking for. Don’t ever underestimate the power of an educator!


Photo credit

Carolism #8:  Allow your students to make mistakes

Carolism #8: Allow your students to make mistakes

 Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein

Mistakes will happen; students will cry; they’ll want to quit; you’ll want to quit. Because mistakes are inevitable, I decided a long time ago that I would allow them and celebrate them. In fact, each student gets to create a “mistake dance” (but mine’s the best, of course). When we make a mistake, we do our little dance and move on.

I had a student several years ago who taught me one of the biggest lessons I ever learned. “Katy” was an all-star student. She tried hard, did well and we got along great. Katy never complained about anything, but every Friday her mom would march into my classroom and chew me out for treating Katy unfairly. It honestly made no sense to me, but I took it. I never asked Katy why her mom was continuing to do it—I just dealt with it.

Years later I received a bouquet of flowers the week of Mother’s Day with a card that read: To the second most influential woman in my life. Love, Katy. When I called to thank her I finally asked her why her mom came in each week to beat me up for treating her unfairly when we both knew that wasn’t the case. She explained that enrolling in cosmetology school wasn’t easy for her parents and they were unsupportive of the decision to begin with. Each night she’d come home and make up stories about how I was horrible to her, that way if she failed, her parents would blame me—not her. She couldn’t face disappointing them again if she didn’t succeed.

Your students have a bigger, overwhelming fear when they make mistakes. They’re disappointing themselves, their family and their friends. The fact is, we never know what a student is going through personally, so while everyone is depending on them to succeed, you need to let them make mistakes.


My rules for mistakes

■  Learn from it. If you’re going to make a mistake, learn what you did wrong and move on. Mistakes aren’t intended to be repeated.

■  Own it. This is not a time to shift the blame or lie about it. Educators and students shouldn’t be justifying their mistakes—they should own it. “I’m sorry, that was my fault. It won’t happen again.”

■  Take risks. You’ll notice students taking bigger risks when they know there’s no judgment and that you’ve created a safe environment for them. If you emphasize mistakes are OK, then encourage them to take risks. The fact is, they’ll be in a job one day where maybe their boss isn’t so lenient. I let students know that if you’re going to screw up, better now than later.

■  Don’t give up. Once you’ve created a culture where mistakes are expected, remind your students that it’s never a reason to give up. Some will make mistakes weekly, while others will make them daily … and that’s OK! Mistakes aren’t a reason to quit.


I do want to point out that while mistakes are OK, offending someone or causing emotional pain isn’t.  Lashing out, being violent or just plain being a bully isn’t just a mistake—it’s a poor choice. Let your students know that if this occurs, there will be consequences. Mistakes can be a great thing. We develop into who we are by screwing up. Continue to make mistakes and move on. Don’t ever underestimate the power of an educator!


Photo credit

Carolism #7:  Don’t teach to the test. Teach for understanding.

Carolism #7: Don’t teach to the test. Teach for understanding.

Al Capone died of syphilis. Students might not remember a textbook answer to everything, especially the more complex chapters, but they’ll remember a story that will help them. It’s the very reason why kids learn the alphabet by singing a song. Whenever I teach the dreaded “bacteria” chapter, my students will be able to tell you about the famous mob boss who died of syphilis.

Educators have got to quit teaching to the test—that does our students no good. It doesn’t help them retain the information long-term and does a poor job preparing them for real-life situations. This is especially difficult for newer teachers because they don’t have the life experience and want their students to test well. Let’s start graduating students who really know the content and will become successful professionals.


Teaching for understanding

■  Explain the why. The bacteria class might not be interesting, but when I explain that you could seriously harm a client or yourself if proper sanitation doesn’t take place, now they understand why they need to know this. If our elementary teachers had told that math will help our problem-solving skills or that knowing the history of this country will explain why men often get paid more than women—then we would’ve had our “why” answered.

■  Give connectors. You’ve got to make the content connect to the student to help them understand it. “Do you remember a time in your life when…” or “Have you ever…” The content will relate to each student differently, so you’ve got to help them find uncover how it connects to them.

■  Make it come alive. How do you read Green Eggs and Ham to a 5-year-old? You probably use different voices, inflection—you make the story come alive. I’m not sure what grade our students were in when story-telling became “boring,” but we’ve got to be delivering content in that animated, fun way we used to. Make the textbook chapters come alive! It’s easier for us to process when it’s delivered in a creative way. 


Teaching for understanding will make those test grades go up, but more importantly you’ll be giving your students’ knowledge that will sustain well after graduation and into their careers. Don’t ever underestimate the power of an educator!


Photo credit

Carolism #6: Teach your students, but work your room

Carolism #6: Teach your students, but work your room

I’ve been guilty of staying up all night preparing material for tomorrow’s lesson. I get to school early to print off my handouts, I’ve practiced how I’m going to say certain terms and what stories I’ll use to make it relatable. I’ve found myself putting so much emphasis in creating content for knowledge that I didn’t consider the compass. This is something all educators will develop over time. We’ll learn the hard way when we give a test, confident that our students know the answers, and then during the grading process we’re faced with the reality that we failed them.  

A teacher has two jobs. Fill young minds with knowledge, yes, but more important, give those minds a compass so that that knowledge doesn’t go to waste. – Mr. Holland’s Opus

This is why I talk so much about delivery methods. Delivery is key to moving that compass and too many teachers are teaching without working their room.


How to work your room

■  Know your space. Before the school year, you need to know the layout of the classroom, the view from sitting in each desk, what your voice sounds like in the room, what the Power Point looks like in the morning versus the afternoon depending on when the sun shines through the window, where you can walk and where you can’t. If you’re going to work the room, you need to know it.

■  Be animated. If you’re going to stand at the front, deliver content so that everyone feels your energy. Working your room is so much more than where you place your desks. Work it with voice inflection, hand movements, facial gestures and movement. Don’t become a talking head by standing behind a podium.

■  Class participation. Be a sporadic teacher who will pop-quiz your students out loud in the middle of a lesson. While I’m teaching any subject, I might say, “Katie, give me an example where that might happen to you in the workplace.” You have got to keep the attention of your students by involving them all day long.

■  Activities. Teach a lesson, take a test, move on to the next chapter. This is how I learned in school and I hated it. Incorporate activities each day, even if it’s a small one like getting them to hop on their phones and find five Google images relating to a topic you’re studying. Activities to correspond with your lesson plans are a must for every great teacher.


Read my blog post about setting up your classroom for other tips specific to your room, but when it comes to working it—that’s all you! Find a balance between teaching and delivery, and you’ll quickly discover how to move that compass. Don’t ever underestimate the power of an educator!


Photo credit

Carolism #5: Embrace change. Always.

Carolism #5: Embrace change. Always.

I couldn’t possibly write a Carolism without addressing the importance of change. I talk about this a lot when I educate teachers. By nature, we hate change. We are creatures of habit and set in our ways. But change is a good thing and we have to learn to start embracing it. Change is what gave us freedom. Change is how elections are won. Change is why your kids will have more than you did. Change is the new black!

■  Cell phones. It’s time we started saying “yes” to cell phones. I have an entire blog post about cell phones in the classroom, so I’m not going to go deeper into it, but I will say it’s the number one hesitation I see teachers having today. Change it now. You can’t be stubborn forever. One of these days you’ll have to switch on that light switch to light a room instead of using a candle.

■  Tablets/laptops. Note taking can be done electronically. Most students can type faster than they can write. Allowing laptops and tablets is something many teachers are doing, but many aren’t. I know you’re thinking they’re on the internet—but as a teacher it’s up to you to set those boundaries. Walk your classroom and make sure they’re on task.

■  Power Point. We have the luxury of skipping the blackboard, white board and overhead. We get to use a Power Point presentation! That means no more long, boring paragraphs. Power Point presentations can use color, pictures and video—so why in the world are we filling our slides with boring textbook quotes? Our students have a textbook. Use your Power Point to coincide with your content, not repeat it! You might be used to using it the same way you did your overhead charts. Stop it. Photos and video should be the bulk of your slide content.

■  Lectures. Get rid of your lecture classes. They’re not working. They actually never did, we just didn’t know any better. Classes should be animated, fun and full of student participation. If you’re the only voice that’s heard in that classroom, then no wonder kids are showing up late. You want to bring excitement? You want test scores to go up? Quit the lecture-style teaching.

Change is the only way you’ll reach the present and future generations. Let your students teach you something, like maybe a new app that would helpful to organization. Make them feel valuable. You don’t have to have it all figured out. I learn from my students every day. That doesn’t make me a poor teacher. It makes me approachable and it gives students value. Don’t ever underestimate the power of an educator!


Photo credit